Military Civilian Transition (Part 1)

with Mike Haynie, Executive Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University

National National

According to a recent Blue Star Families survey, with over 40,000 non-profits focused on serving veterans and their families, finding and accessing services is the most self-reported issue. Mike Haynie, Executive Director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University shares the importance of learning how to navigate through thousands of available services for veterans, to smooth the transition from military to civilian life. This discussion continues in part 2 of Military Civilian Transition.

Interview recorded Oct 11, 2017.  Hosted by Robert Traynham.

Read a partial transcript of this interview below:

Robert Traynham: Nearly 200,000 U.S service members transition out of the military and return to civilian life each year. Those separating from military service can face unique challenges as they rejoin mainstream society. Hello, and welcome to Comcast Newsmakers, I’m Robert Traynham, with Mr. Mike Haynie, he’s the executive director of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University. Mike, welcome to the program.

Mike Haynie: Thank you very much for having me.

Robert Traynham: Often times we hear about the bumpy transition, the turbulence for lack of a better term, that a lot of soldiers [00:00:30] have when they transition back into civilian life. It could be everything from culture shock, perhaps maybe they don’t recognize their families, or frankly, their families may not recognize them. It also could be that navigating the Veteran’s Affairs Department, education, getting a job, it can be simply, quite frankly, just overwhelming. What are you doing at Syracuse to help mitigate this?

Mike Haynie: So, I think you’re absolutely correct, that the challenge can be daunting for many individuals. One of the [00:01:00] challenges that folks face really is just navigating the network of supportive services resources. There are more than 40,000, for example, non-profits that are focused on, in one way or another, serving that population, service members, veterans, their families.

Robert Traynham: Mike, can I pause here, I assume that’s bitter sweet. The sweet part about there’s a lot of people out there that want to help. The kind of bitter part or whatever you want to call it is, just it can be overwhelming for a lot of people.

Mike Haynie: It can.

Robert Traynham: It’s actually too much information.

Mike Haynie: So [00:01:30] we did a large study about two years ago that Google helped us with and interviewed more than 8,500 transitioning service members and one of the questions we asked was about this very issue, the challenges of making that transition and even to our surprise, the major challenge wasn’t about finding a job, it wasn’t necessarily focused on family, it was navigating this network of services and resources in a way that gets [00:02:00] the service member, the veteran, to the right place for the right service, resource, et cetera. So, it is bitter sweet. The support out there nationally and in our communities is very significant. That said, if we can’t get the service member, the veteran, to the right resource when they need it, it really is not positioned to have a meaningful impact.

Robert Traynham: So, what [00:02:30] does that look like? Is it being a guardian angel, an ambassador to help them basically raise their awareness about what they can and cannot qualify for?

Mike Haynie: I think that’s part of it. I think there’s another side of that coin, though, and it’s less focused on navigating the veteran but also creating within our communities a cultural confidence of the population. I say often, we’re not transitioning, necessarily, service members to some set of national [00:03:00] programs. They’re going back to our towns, cities, villages and in an ara of an all volunteer military where you have just a small percentage of Americans who have worn the uniform over the course of the last 15 years of war, very often, our communities are disconnected from those military connected families and those veterans, and we have to build bridges at a community level.

Robert Traynham: It’s interesting that you say that. Do you find that perhaps [00:03:30] if the town is not a military town, in other words, if there’s not a military base in our around the city or town, that perhaps maybe there’s a big or small disconnect?

Mike Haynie: I would … big is probably underselling-

Robert Traynham: Really?

Mike Haynie: … the disconnect. I think one of the most profound challenges facing this generation of service members is the fact that they are the first generation of transitioning service members and veterans who [00:04:00] have really shouldered the burden of the nation’s longest sustained conflict as volunteers and what that means is that, you know, I think by the numbers, only one half of one percent or so of Americans since 9/11 have put on a uniform. What that means is that when a service member, a veteran, transitions out of the military into civilian society, often they can look to the left and look to the right and there’s nobody that looks like them. They don’t have that [00:04:30] same shared experience and it can be isolating.

Robert Traynham: I just had this a-ha moment and that is, is that as you just mentioned, this is the longest military conflict ever in the United States history. Longer than World War II-

Mike Haynie: It is.

Robert Traynham: … and I had this conversation a while back with someone else. With World War II there was a shared sacrifice, even with the individuals that were not serving in the uniform, whether it be through the whole rationing system and victory guards, I mean, you’re going down the list. This war, or this military conflict, that we’re going through now is much different, where perhaps maybe there is a [00:05:00] disconnect.

Mike Haynie: I think that issue that you just highlighted is probably one of the least understood and less discussed issues related to this post 9/11 generation of veterans. We are transitioning a generation of veterans that raised their hand and volunteered for service, but that service was on behalf of a larger society, a nation, that has been [00:05:30] because of that model, largely disconnected from the costs and consequences of war. I think there is, arguably, a moral obligation that we all have to make sure that as they make that transition from military to civilian life, that we put them on a pathway to success.